Interview by Brock Eastman
Featuring The Hive
ON THE RUN TO SAVE HER BABY
A pregnant cyborg and a teenage boy fight against intergalactic governments to protect the unborn in this novel from a Christy Award-nominated author.
Why is Zain pregnant? She belongs to the Hive, a collective of cyborgs who choose to live apart from the rest of human society. At times, the Hive rent out some of their females to produce tailor-made children for paying couples. But Zain is an engineer, not a breeder. When she finds herself separated from the Hive, she decides to find the person who she thinks ordered the baby. Surely they'll help her find her way home.
Matthew "Scorn" Nelson has spent the better part of his teenage years cracking computer systems, causing mischief and havoc wherever he can. But the night of his greatest triumph turned into a painful memory, one he wants to erase. But that night was also his first step on a road to faith. When Zain arrives on his doorstep, Scorn is horrified. What's he supposed to do with a pregnant teenage cyborg?
Unfortunately, he'll have to answer that question on the run. Zain's people want to reclaim her and terminate her pregnancy. And both the Ministrix and the Praesidium, two intergalactic governments in a constant state of cold war, want Zain's baby for their own reasons. Will their enemies run them down? Or will Zain find a new Hive for both her and her child?
John Otte has a knack for writing creative stories set in futuristic worlds. His vivid settings and well defined characters will pull you in and not let go until you’ve finished.
Brock: How did you come up with the idea for The Hive, but also the book prior to it Numb?
John: The first book, Numb, was kind of an odd journey. I was first inspired by a short story contest for a now defunct webzine, created the world as part of an unfinished NaNoWriMo project, and had the main character pop into my head while watching Daniel Craig playing James Bond. The rest of the plot kind of snowballed from there.
But in terms of The Hive, I can honestly say I don’t remember where I got the idea. I think it’s the result of asking “So what happens next?” I wanted to keep telling tales in the same storyworld as Numb, and so I asked myself, “What would happen next?” Pretty soon, a few threads started to pull together and I had the basic kernel of an idea.
Brock: Tell us about the main characters and what makes them unique.
John: The Hive follows two main characters. The first is Zain. She is a member of the Hive, a cybernetic society that has chosen to separate themselves from the rest of humanity. She’s an engineering drone. She’s incredibly naïve when it comes to the rest of human society, which makes things extremely difficult when she finds herself separated from her people.
Matthew Nelson is the son of wealthy executives and attends a swanky private school where he is, unfortunately, a social outcast. But that’s okay, because Matt also calls himself “Scorn.” He’s secretly a systems cracker, someone who can get inside a computer system and make it do whatever he wants. And he is, quite simply, one of the best crackers ever, responsible for all sorts of crazy mischief.
Brock: Share something about them that no one else knows.
John: Zain was a major crier. At least, she was in the first draft of the book. I hadn’t realized how often I had her break down in tears until I was reading through it and found myself thinking, “Why are you crying again?”
As for Matt, he has a number of really big secrets that very few people know about. The biggest is that he recently became a Christian. In his society, though, that’s technically illegal, so he has to hide it from just about everyone.
Brock: Amazing how reading through a story a few times, we begin to see repetition we didn’t realize was there. In three words what is this book about?
John: Oh, that’s easy. I can sum it up in three words: “pregnant teenage cyborg.” That was actually the nickname of the book for years. I was at a writers’ conference where I pitched it to an editor. The editor liked it so much, she went around telling people about how one guy pitched her a book about a pregnant teenage cyborg. Pretty soon, all I had to do was tell people, “I’m the pregnant teenage cyborg.” You can imagine the looks that a few people gave me who didn’t know what I was talking about.
Brock: Do you outline the entire book before starting, or do you write as you go and let the characters take control of the story?
John: I’m more of an outliner when it comes to putting together a story. Actually, I call what I do “stepping stones” writing. I have to envision about half a dozen key moments in the book. Sometimes those moments are huge and other times they’re just little snippets. Whatever the case, once I have those moments, I kind of make it up as I go along between those moments.
Brock: I’ve had situations before where I’ll jump ahead and write important moments and then connect the parts, but sometimes I find myself getting bored writing the connecting stuff. How do you believe this story relates to the lives of readers?
John: In two ways. First of all, there’s the fact that Zain’s pregnancy is unintended and, from her perspective, unwanted. By writing this story as I did, I hoped I could approach it from a different angle.
But second, I also saw a sort of resonance between the Hive and some corners of the modern Christian church. This is kind of my way to not-so-subtly critique it.
Brock: What is your favorite genre to write for?
John: Science fiction, no doubt. I’ve tried my hand at fantasy and enjoyed it, but there’s just something fun about science fiction that keeps me coming back.
Brock: Any certain research required for the book, or is it all from your imagination?
John: No, this is all my imagination running wild. I tend to write more space opera than hard science fiction, so I can be a little more fast and loose with the facts. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t do research to help make sure I got the details correct. At one point, I went out and bought a copy of “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” from a Goodwill. When I brought it home, my wife looked at it and asked me, “Something you’re not telling me?”
Brock: Ha ha, that’s hilarious. Sounds like something my wife would have said to me. Are you working on the next book in the series?
John: In a way, yes. It’s not under contract, but I’m having a lot of fun with it. Once again, I asked myself, “What happens next?” and the result is a story that’s kind of a mix between “Leverage” and “Star Trek.”
Brock: Where do you like to write?
John: One of my favorite places to write is at my local library. They have private study rooms that are just perfect. I can stay off the internet and get a lot of work done.
But my absolute most favorite place to write is at a friend’s house. One of my fellow authors has friends over regularly to work on our projects, as well as provide encouragements and critiques for each other. It’s an eclectic group of authors; we have speculative fiction folks like me mixing with historical romance and romantic thriller authors. But we have a lot of fun.
Brock: Are you a full-time or part-time author?
John: I am strictly part time, fitting it in when I can. In my “other life,” I’m a Lutheran pastor, so it can be a difficult trick to balance the two.
Brock: Considering your other requirements. How long does it usually take you to write a single book?
John: It really depends. I’ve been averaging about a book a year right now, although sometimes it takes me a little longer.
Brock: When did you realize you wanted to become a writer?
John: I’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. When I was in fifth grade, I started putting together my own badly drawn comic books. After I realized that I was a really bad artist, I “graduated” to writing really bad Gary Stu science fiction adventures. I’ve tried my hand at fanfiction, movie scripts, and even a stage play that garnered some serious interest from a dinner theatre in Australia. I guess the upshot is that I’m a storyteller at heart and can’t help myself.
Brock: What’s your view on e-books and the new independent publishing revolution?
John: I was skeptical of ebooks when they first hit the market, but I now own a Kindle that has way too many books on it. I still love the feel of a print book, but I like the way that I can take risks on new authors and stories.
As for the way that this is reshaping publishing, I find it interesting to watch. I’m glad that so many people are finding their voices and bringing their stories to receptive audiences. At the same time, though, the quality of stories that have entered the marketplace have suffered somewhat. There’s no shortcut for good fiction.
Brock: What was your favorite book as a teen or child?
John: Boy, that’s a good question. My family was the terror of our local library because we checked out and returned so many books every three weeks. I loved Encyclopedia Brown when I was a kid. I really got into Star Trek novels when I was a kid (Peter David was my favorite author for those). I’m not sure I could pick just one favorite book.
Brock: What is the one author, living or dead, who you would co-write a book with and why?
John: Easy question: Brandon Sanderson. He is my current favorite by far. I love the intricate storyworlds that he builds and his stuff is always so entertaining. I think it would be a blast to collaborate with him.
Brock: What would your dream writing job be?
John: For me, there’s one dream writing job I’d love to have: writing a Star Wars novel. I’ve been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid and ever since they started producing novels back in the ‘90s, I’ve wanted to write one. Maybe someday I’ll get the chance. We’ll just have to wait and see.
Brock: What are your hopes for your future as an author?
John: I have what can best be described as pipedreams: hitting a bestselling list, having a book adapted as a movie, create something that will someday be featured in Hall H of Comic-Con. But my greatest hope is that I can just keep telling fun stories to people.
Brock: Aside from writing, what else do you do in your spare time?
John: I’m the consummate geek. I love games, both video games and tabletop games. I’m always on the lookout for something new to play, although I don’t get many opportunities to play them all.
Brock: You were a theatre major in college. What’s your favorite stage play?
John: The play is called A Company of Wayward Saints and I’ve had the privilege of directing it twice, once in college and once in seminary. It’s an amazing play about a troupe of comedic actors trying to put on a show called “The History of Man.” It’s hilarious and poignant all that the same time.
Brock: What’s your favorite TV show?
John: I’m a suck for anything that has to do with superheroes, and there are a lot of shows that fit that particular bill right now. My absolute favorite right now is “The Flash.” It’s a funny show with plenty of action and a lot of heart.
Brock: Coke or Pepsi?
John: Coke. Without a doubt. I figure if I ever have to stop drinking Coke, their stock is going to crater. My congregation is very used to seeing me with a Coke in my hand when I’m teaching Bible study.
Brock: Favorite place to vacation?
John: Australia. A year after we got married, my wife and I spent two weeks there and we had a phenomenal time. I would love to go back someday.
Brock: Favorite color?
John: Purple. I have no idea why, but that’s it.
Brock: Do you have a favorite Bible verse?
John: Far too many. Romans 8:28-39 is toward the top of my list. So are 1 Corinthians 15:51-58 and 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (basically anything that talks about the resurrection).
Brock: Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what are some examples?
John: I like to listen to instrumental music when I write, anything without lyrics. So I’ll use movie soundtracks, stuff like that. Right now, I’m kind of hooked on a group called “Gothic Storm.” Fun music to write to.
Author Website: JohnWOtte.com
Author Facebook: facebook.com/authorjohnwotte
Author Twitter: @JohnWOtte